/ Forschung

Call for Papers: “Extracting the Past from the Present”

Conference on African Precolonial History (Bruxelles, 1-5 March 2021)

The International and Interdisciplinary Conference on African Precolonial History at the Université libre de Bruxelles (1-5 March 2021). Papers concerning the precolonial history of Africa, both theoretical and presenting research results, mono- and multidisciplinary are welcomed. The submission deadline for abstracts is 30 Jun 2020.

The organizers especially encourage contributions reflecting on the central theme of the conference: “Extracting the Past from the Present”. Many researchers analyze data that have been collected recently – words and phrases, observations of contemporary pottery techniques, genes, etc. – in order to formulate hypotheses on the past. Hardliners argue that only direct evidence – such as ancients objects – may inform us on the past and that such inferences are mere  speculation. Yet, many of the insights we value today are based on contemporary evidence, for instance the theories on the Bantu Expansion. The use of contemporary data is also at the core of our own ERC research project, BANTURIVERS, with anthropology receiving its proper role within historical research. The anthropology of technologies such as pottery, subsistence strategies or navigation techniques, but also insights in sociocultural dynamics, offer an interface between different disciplines as well as between present and past. The anthropological observation and documentation of contemporary technologies allows an understanding of dynamics currently at play. Through the analysis of the respective vocabulary these dynamics can be traced into the past, and may eventually be linked to direct evidence from archaeological excavations. At the Université libre de Bruxelles and the Royal Museum for Central Africa, contemporary evidence (pottery traditions, words) is mapped in space before travelling into time. For this, the BANTURIVERS team is looking into the possibilities of cartography and the spatial approach as a common language to speak of history across the various disciplines. This is the direct incentive for the focus of the conference on the use of contemporary evidence as a frame for decoding the past. Given its controversial nature, the organizers also welcome critical approaches.

The conference will take place from 1 to 5 March 2021, at the premises of the Université libre de Bruxelles. The organizers foresee five days of conference. They also plan several social activities, amongst which an excursion to the renewed Royal Museum for Central Africa.

The submission deadline for abstracts is 30 June2020